May 19, 2003*

Department of Homeland Security Announces New Procedures For Tracking Visitors to the U.S.

A new program has been announced by DHS to better track visitors the United States.  This program, called “US VISIT”, begins with the visa application process in which the U.S. Consulates and Embassies abroad will collect information to confirm applicants’ identity, measure security risks and assess the legitimacy of travel of visitors to the U.S.  For people who require visas, those visas will use biometric features that will identify the visitors when they arrive at an airport or seaport and access the information about that visitor.  This information will be available at the ports of entry as well as throughout the entire immigration enforcement system.  This system will enable the Bureau of Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) to know instantly who violates entry requirements, overstays, or violates the terms of their stay, a capability it does not now have.

By October 2004 those countries that participate in the Visa Waiver program will be required to use tamper-proof passports that include biometric identifiers.

Initially, visitors will have to prove their identity through fingerprints and photographs; later, as the technology is perfected, additional forms such as facial recognition or iris scans may be used as well.

By January 1, 2004 if a foreign visitor flies into an international airport or arrives at another border port the visitor's travel documents will be scanned.  Then, once a photo and fingerprint are taken, the person will then be checked against lists of those who should be denied entry for any reason - terrorist connections, criminal violations, or past visa violations.  The information requested will include immigrant and citizenship status; nationality; the country of residence; and the person's address while in the United States.

In announcing this new system, DHS Secretary Hutchinson stated that “in 99.9 percent of the cases, the visitor will simply be wished a good day and sent on their way.”

Unlike the current system, when the visitor departs, ICE will verify his or her identity and capture their departure information.  That will inform the Department of Homeland Security if a person entered illegally or overstayed his or her authorized stay. 

Congress has appropriated nearly $400 million for this year alone to establish US VISIT at all U.S. airports and seaports.

 

 

* The purpose of this newsletter is to inform potential clients of the type of legal issues our firm handles. It is not intended to establish any attorney/client relationship, and we accept no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided. We cannot discuss or clarify any of the information contained in our newsletters, except with our existing clients.